European Axis, game

Just watched the Italy-Germany game on the DVR. The result was fairly disappointing, but it was quite a good game. Germany dominated play for most of the game, but two bad defensive breakdowns on counterattacks gave Balotelli, and Italy, all the openings it needed. Last game, Balotelli got lots of chances, but couldn't convert. This time he only had a few chances, but he buried two of them. The first involved a relatively innocuous cross that the defender, mysteriously, failed to even make a play on. That left Super Mario uncontested in the air from about six or eight yards out; he didn't hit it very hard, but the goalie still didn't have a chance. The second was on a long through-ball where Mario got ten yards behind the defenders while the ball was in the air. They tried to catch up, but he got the shot off before they could even try to contest it, and it hit the back of the net right at the side netting (a very pretty shot). Again, no chance for the keeper. I'd like to say that, from there, it was all Germany attacking, but that stopped being the case with ten or fifteen minutes left. At that point, the Germans were pushing forward so hard that they left huge, gaping holes in the back. It was rather surprising that it didn't end up with a much larger margin, thanks to that. Germany did manage to get one back in stoppage time, when a hand ball in the box was called, and Oezil converted the penalty kick. But that was all they had; they really didn't get many good chances. They just didn't show any real ability to get possession in the box against Italy. Oezil had one nice drive to the side of the net, but he couldn't get it to a teammate facing the net. Other than that, it was pretty much all long shots, with one or two closer ones that came off of deflected passes (and were not sitting at the right spot for kicking). It was a disappointing performance for Germany. I thought they looked good in the midfield, but just couldn't penetrate at all. Oh, and their corner kicks were awful. I don't think a single one of them gave a decent scoring change. Thinking about it, they did have one nice chance on a set piece from twenty-two yards out, but Buffon made a very good save on Reus' shot. The one good thing about the game was that it was good to see a game not end up one-nil (or won on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw). It was actually a pretty exciting game, especially the first ten or fifteen minutes of the second half when Germany was driving the play and keeping Italy back on their heels. But it still leaves us with Spain and Italy. I'm not sure what to cheer for; maybe I'll just cheer for Balotelli and a good game. But I suspect it'll be pretty boring, with Spain passing all around Italy and the Romans mounting the odd counterattack. We'll see.


Texas Universities must close

Huh?  What am I talking about?  I'm talking about the Texas GOP's recipe for complete irrelevance to the rest of the world.

It's fairly impressive, in an "attempting to return to third world living conditions in a generation" type of way.

But this part outright offends me:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs...

Yes, critical thinking is a danger. We can't teach people to think for themselves.

This is the part where they attempt to reverse hundreds of years of evolution (oh wait, they think that's bupkiss, too) and progress. You cannot have a university run in that philosophy. Universities are all about teaching people critical thinking.

And if you want to stop funding universities (and here I'd like to make a small side point. For all the grief about ineffectiveness of schooling in the US, the US university system is second to none), you're definitely going to sink into irrelevance very quickly. You've just written yourselves out of the economy completely.

Twenty years of that sort of thinking, and the rest of us will be hoping that Rick Perry gets his wish, and Texas secedes. The response at that point would be, "Good riddance".

Hopefully, enough people are able to think for themselves enough to see that this is amazingly stupid.

(And note that I haven't touched on the suggestions for doing away with Affirmative Action and the Voter Rights Act of 1965. Because doing away with minority rights is the cornerstone of the stated purpose of this document, affirming that all men are created equal. Because nothing says "equal" like disenfranchisement.

Also not talking about banning gay marriage. Because, again, nothing says equal like, "You can't marry the person you love".)

This whole thing wouldn't really bother me if it was a manifesto by some virtually-unknown radical fringe group. But it's a freakin' major party in a major state. Is banning critical thought really mainstream? I sure as hell hope not.

Iberian Intermission

I did catch the first semifinal match tonight (had to watch the recording from the DVR) between Spain and Portugal. Coming in, I should say that I generally do not like Portugal (they used to be complete dive masters. I think they've improved, but I've never really liked them). But I also don't really like Spain that much. To be honest, I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's just because their games are so slow and boring; I think every game I've watched of them (at least in the last couple of years) has been a one-nil victory. And this game was basically more of that. I hadn't seen Ronaldo play in quite a while (with the exception of the Germany/Portugal game early in the tournament, it was a couple of years), so I wasn't sure if he was still in top form. It certainly appeared that he was. For as much as his play used to irritate me (there was never any denying his talent, but he was terrible for diving for a while), he looks like he's grown up quite well. He seemed to be in great shape, and still have soccer as his top priority. I might need to revise my opinion of him. In any event, this game was certainly a snoozefest. The defensive pressure, especially downfield, was quite good. But on the offensive side, there just didn't seem to be much going on, and very little urgency (especially from the Spaniards). The upshot of that was that there were very few chances for either side, and quite a few of the ones that presented themselves were ruined by shots that were just off-target. And, to add insult to injury, my recording gave out in the first overtime again. So I had to wait for Sportscenter to watch the results. I certainly wasn't surprised that it went to PKs, although it did sound like the Spanish found some urgency in the second overtime. I was certainly shocked, though, that Ronaldo didn't factor into the PKs at all. What were they waiting for? Did they really think there were five better shooters on the team? So, anyway, now the Spanish can wait around and see who they'll be playing in the Final. And then we can all find out if they can manage to be the first team to win three Continental/World tournaments in a row. If Germany wins the other semifinal, I'll certainly hope not. If Italy moves on, I'll be torn, but might well get behind the Spaniards for a day. I'm sure one of the Italians has six fingers on his right hand.


I haven't been watching much of Euro 2012; I keep forgetting to set the DVR. In fact, the only day of pool play I saw was the first day of the Germany/Portugal/Netherlands/Denmark group of death. I also missed most of the quarterfinals; the one exception being the final one, which was between England and Italy. I'm fairly indifferent to the Brits; I like watching Rooney play, and they normally manage a few other good players. I'm not too fond of the Italian diving team; too physical with zero ability to take it in return, it seems like. Although I do like Balotelli; maturity issues aside, he's a fantastic and creative player. All of that left me hoping for a British upset, but with little expectation of that coming to fruition. But despite hearing that the Brits hadn't been playing well on offense or defense, I still expected a closely fought match. And I guess it was that, if you limit your comparison to the scoreboard. But the Italians dominated the game from the get-go. The British just had no midfield quality at all, and couldn't maintain possession at all. In fact, I don't think they got a single chance on goal from a gradual build-up; it was all counterattacks when the Italians got too many men downfield, and missed a close chance. In fact, without some bad luck (by the peninsulars) and good goaltending (by the islanders), this game would have ended up four-nil or five-nil. Well, the Brits might have managed a goal; they did get a couple of very good chances. But with that luck and goaltending, it kept seeming like they might still score and upset. And when they went to overtime, that still seemed to be the case. Unfortunately, my DVR quit before the game actually ended (two and a half hours should be long enough, but that forty minutes of pre-game hosed me), so I didn't see Nocerino's goal called back offsides. And, of course, I missed the penalty shots. I must admit, I thought the Brits would have an even shot at winning if they got to PKs, but it was not to be. The shots, themselves, were pretty creative. Balotelli did his slow-shot that I've mentioned before. One of the other Italians cheekily chipped the goaltender. And I seem to recall there was one other oddball, but I can't rememeber it at the moment. Anyway, that all left me a little disappointed, but it was decent game. The Brits deserved to lose, as they were badly outplayed, but did manage to keep it interesting. As far as individual performances, Balotelli was a one-man wrecking crew; I think he had more chances than everyone else on the field. Not anyone else; everyone else. I'm still astounded that he didn't manage to convert any of them. Rooney did not have a good game; he seemed a little off. Of course, some of that might have been that he just wasn't getting any touches. As I said, no midfield to get the ball to him. And because they were so few and far between, he was probably trying to do too much. Nocerino also had a nice night, despite being a late sub. He had the disallowed goal in overtime, as well as a great chance late in regulation that was stopped by an outstretched foot in an excellent (and somewhat lucky) play by one of the British defenders. Oh, and I alluded to Hart having a very nice night in goal. He deserved a lot of credit for the game making it to PKs. But the Italians will be playing Germany tomorrow night in the second semifinal.


Slow good? Or Slow Bad?

I was just chuckling after reading Ken Rockwell's latest screed about simple cameras (currently, it's on his What's New page, though it will eventually move to his June 2012 page. Look for the 26th, either way). There's a kernel of truth in what he says, about how complicated modern cameras are, and how much better things would be if they weren't so complex (KISS is always the engineer's byword). But when he tries to take it all the way to saying
on a real camera like a LEICA or Canon AE-1 Program, there are only three controls at most: shutter, aperture, and focus
it gets a bit silly. I kind of wonder where the subject of his very next item (ISO) fits in. Or how about zoom on a lens? Useless? Well, we do know he likes his primes, but this still seems a bit over the top. How about file format for saving? Yes, you probably almost never change this, but it's fairly important. Do you want control over the autofocus? Again, generally not going to change from shot to shot (though shoot to shoot, it might) either, but it's still important.

Gloaming Gates

I was in the mood to read Paula Volsky's excellent Gates of Twilight recently. I'd read it before (twice, I think), but it had been quite a few years. I remembered liking the main characters quite a bit, but very little else. It took place in the same world as her also excellent Illusion, but had only the most tenuous of connections (to the point that I don't remember noticing the connection before). Whereas that one was a fictionalised (and tamed down) recreation of the french revolution, this one is a similar retelling of the British occupation of India. The main character is a mid-level functionary at the "british" embassy in ZuLaysa. He comes from a rich, and aristocratic family, whose largest embarassment was marrying, several generations ago, an "indian" princess. We quickly find out that, thanks to that heritage, combined with extensive curiosity and xenophilia, he can also blend in quite well with the natives. And the natives, thanks to several factors coming together, are getting restless and restive. One of those factors has to do with a local "God", and his main priest, causing problems. And that God, we find out in the prologue, is not a native of that earth. So there is certainly reason to think of him as a god. The other main character is a local princess (strictly speaking, I suppose, THE local princess). She's actually quite poor, thanks to Renille's compatriots, thouh she was educated in his country. That, combined with her mother's hatred of Renille's countrymen, makes for quite a few of the dynamics going on in the book. The tendency of the rest of the embassy workers to look down on Renille, comprises much of the rest. Can Renille keep the Avesquians from full-fledged revolt? And stay alive at the same time? And deal with the god problems? That's most of the plot. And as I mentioned, I liked the main characters quite a bit. I wouldn't call it a deep book, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.


A Pro camera on the go?

I just wanted to make a couple of little comments about an iOS app called Pro Camera. I've had it for a while, but didn't use it until recently (in fact, I still don't use it all the time, but only because it's easier to get to the default Camera app). But I just wanted to note some nice features of it.

The first one is that it doesn't take as long to take a shot; the lag isn't as bad, and it takes no time to save the shot either.

The second is that you can change the focus/metering point without moving the camera. This is great for taking portraits of multiple people, of course, but the metering part is an even bigger deal, to me. I discovered it when I was trying to capture a sunset where only a small part of the sky was visible; I was thrilled when it worked (though still wishing I'd had my D4 with me).

I'm sure there are other cool features, but those are enough for me to find it worth the purchase price. In fact, they're enough for me to wish I could make it the default Camera app (wasn't sure when I first wrote this, but it appears this is only possible (via GrabberApp or AnyLockApp) on jailbroken phones). Was trying to avoid jailbreaks, but this certainly has me thinking about it).

Update:Added the picture that I meant to go with this.


Gadget Central

I mentioned, previously, that the new version of Jetpack Joyride has a feature called gadgets. I've now had a little time to play with them, and have a few thoughts.

Air Barrys: I like these. When you touch the screen while walking, you jump into the air very quickly, high enough to jump over any obstacle (I think). They're fantastic for any mission involving high fives or walking. They're probably also awesome for 'go Xm without using the machine-gun jetpack', if you only have that jetpack, although I haven't tried that.

Nerd Repellant: Graphically amusing (all scientists disappear, flashing lights are turned off, and tumbleweeds blow across the bottom of the screen), but useless. Annoying that this seems to be the only gadget required by a mission.

Insta-ball: Meh. Get a bit more distance. Think I've only used this one once.

Gravity Belt: Would seem the converse of the Air Barrys, but I find them really annoying. The changing physics (falling faster) makes the whole game play differently, so they hurt more than help. Annoying side effect: you can knock over scientists by falling, forcing failure on 'go X distance without harming scientists' missions.

Missile Jammer: Looks like it makes a certain percentage of missiles fail. Seems pretty useless, but this is the only one I haven't played with at all.

Token Gift: Get a free Token at the start of the game. Nice, useful. I use it on most missions that require finding a certain number of tokens (or certain number of spin wins).

Freeze-o-matic: Meh. Get fair bit of extra distance the first time you hit the deck. Would strongly contemplate using them if they worked more than once (after a blast or after dying from a second chance).

X-Ray Specs: Visually cool, but mostly useless. Only real use I can see is if you need a certain vehicle for a mission, but are mostly focused on another mission that's hurt by having a vehicle (such as X high fives). Even then, I think they're pretty iffy.

Gemology: Small percentage of coins are turned into gems, which are worth more (although I haven't yet worked out how much more; I've forgotten how big most of the coin groups are, making it difficult to calculate). Generally useful.

Ezy-dodge Missiles: Missiles move much more slowly. I think there might also be a side effect of a larger proximity for near-missile calculation, but that's totally a guess. I use them occasionally for near-missile missions, but am not thrilled with them.

Magnetic Tokens: Tokens are attracted to you, and thus, much easier to get. They're less likely to kill you, so it's a generally useful gadget, but I think less useful than many others. I've used this only a few times.

Flying Pig: A piggy bank, at random intervals (which can be close to zero; I've seen two on the screen at once a couple of times) appears, scattering coins. If you run into it (or it gets plowed by a missile, which is awesome), it drops a load of coins. I use it occasionally, generally in tandem with the coin magnet.

Free Ride: Start the game (unless you "won" a head start the previous game, in which case it appears as soon as your head start wears off) in a vehicle. Allows the 'Another Way In' Achievement (I think only if you start with the teleporter, although I haven't paid close enough attention to be positive about that). Doesn't allow you to use a bought head start. This is one that I use all the time.

Coin Magnet: Just like a magnetic vehicle, except without the vehicle, and not as strong. Very generally useful. This is my 'go to' option when I don't need anything specific.

Lucky Last: You win on your final 'final chance' spin. I'd like this better if it were possible to have it happen more than once (ie: if the final spin is a blast that hits another token, or gives a second chance that yields one or more tokens). As it is, I only use it when I have a mission based on number of times winning final spin. Even then, I think it's rather iffy.

Flash: A dog runs along the floor, knocking over scientists and picking up coins (sometimes jumping for them). Cool to watch, but not especially useful.

Dezapinator: Has a small chance (one in ten, maybe? Maybe even less) of disabling any zapper. This is another generally useful one that I use fairly often when I don't have two other, specific needs (or have a mission like 'fly over X zappers'; if they're disabled, flying over doesn't count).

Turbo Boost: Every so often (once every 1500m or so, I think) a little machine will fly out from behind you, and leave three rings in the air in front of you. These rings will blow up missiles, disable zappers, and make you go faster for a bit. I like this one, but it does make a bad distraction sometimes. Mostly gets up-marks, though.

That's all of them, and they're enabled in groups of three. The first group is immediately available, and each other group is enabled, in order, when you buy two more gadgets. So you need to buy ten before the last three are available.

I go back and forth over whether I like them or not. Choosing them is strategically interesting, but almost all of them change the way you play. They do have interesting effects, though, and go a long ways towards making some missions easier (or harder, come to that).


Joooyyy-riding across the universe...

Boldly going forward 'cause we can't find reverse..

I wonder how well the rest of that song would work...

Anyway, I stopped playing Jetpack Joyride a while ago, because my iPhone lost the record of all the missions I'd accomplished on it (over half of them).

But after some updates, and finishing Tiny Tower, I decided to take a look at it again. And it looked different before it even started up, as the loading screen had some silly status messages (I think one of them was something like 'Growing 5 o'clock Shadow'). And going to the stash had another big difference, as it had something called Gadgets.

I still don't know about all of the gadgets, although I immediately played with a bunch of them. Essentially, you can equip up to two of them, and each one gives you some advantage. An ability to jump a certain height, which might be good in a first pas through the game, or bouncing further than usual upon dying, getting additional coins, breaking a certain percentage of zappers, etc.

I don't yet know a whole lot about them, but they're rather intriguing. I did note that quite a few of them are extremely good for particular missions.

I'm still trying to get used to the play of the game again, though. But it's still fun to play. Most importantly, I hope they fixed the bug(s) that caused losing mision progress. I'll probably talk about the game a bit more later.

Venusian trip

You might have heard that Venus is making a transit across the face of the sun today. We lost it pretty early, where I am, as the sun set well before the transit finished. But we lost the sun for pictures much earlier than that, even, as we had near-complete cloud cover.

This is the best shot I've got. As you can tell by the fact that this is a 100% crop from the camera's JPEG (I usually shoot in RAW, but accidentally left the camera in JPEG from some shots I took at a playground over the weekend), my 300mm lens wasn't nearly long enough for this kind of activity.

One thing that made this shot kind of interesting was that that smoke-looking stuff is the clouds. Somehow, the ND filter I was using (and that arrived just in time, yesterday) did that to the clouds. Maybe it's a polarization effect. I'm not sure; I'll have to experiment later.

Anyway, for those wondering, it was an 8-stop ND filter, ISO 450, f/8, 1/500s exposure. And to avoid the danger of blinding myself by sighting the shot, I used the camera's LIve View feature to aim. I'd like to make some comment about having a better lens (maybe a telescope?) the next time around, but I'd have to significantly outlive the oldest person ever to be around for that (by several decades). And if, by some miracle, I am, I doubt I'll be thinking too much about photography.

Final note on the little skyscraper

I finished building the Tea House I mentioned earlier today, and completed the missions and accomplishments that allowed (I think I slightly missed the twelve hours I predicted, though. I didn't realize that I had over thirteen hours remaining on building that floor when I wrote it. A construction worker helped keep me as close as I was). So I now have a tower with 163 storeys (1 Lobby, 100 stores, 60 apartments, and two empty floors) with 300 people all working their dream job.

I did confirm that much of my tower bux came from finding people their dream job. Once I'd gotten down to a couple of non-dream job people my tower bux inflow dropped close to zero. And even closer once I got the 300th.

But one last thing I wanted to talk about was spending those tower bux. I spent quite a while using the bulk of them to buy floors quicker (by converting into coins). I now think that was a waste of time, and I should have used most of them (after upgrading the elevators to the max) to expand floors.

One thing I did from fairly early on was expand all of my floors to try to put them into identical time-frames. To do that, I built them up to the point where the two-coin item stock was 900 at a shot (or more, if it started bigger, of course). And I think that was a good idea. But some of the larger ones need to be expended further, so that the time spent selling the two-coin item is enough to stock the three-coin items. Many of them are big enough, and most of them are when you have dream job people working. But some of them are quite a ways short (off the top of my head: Billiards, Volleyball, Bowling, Doctor's Office, et al), and should be expanded until they aren't so. Assuming you have all dream job people, figure out how far short they are, and figure that each level you improve them subtracts ten minutes from that gap. So some of them need to be improved by twenty or thirty levels.

Once you go to my strategy of selling only one item at a time, this is fairly critical.

Also, I saw it suggested that not expanding certain small shops (tea house or coffee shop, for instance) is worthwhile, if you're actively playing a lot, so that you can get more tower bux out of that. My guess is that you'd have to be playing 8-10 hours a day for that to be worth seriously considering. After playing around with it, my guess is that you have a 5% chance of getting a tower bux each time you fully stock a floor. So I can't think that it's worthwhile.

But the key to the game is still a matter of getting as many people working their dream job as possible. My earlier suggestions on doing that still hold fully. It pays for itself many times over. So, the suggestion that I saw about cycling people through multiple floors? Complete waste of time. I was skeptical when I first saw that idea, but now I'm sure of it.

Anyway, enjoy the game. I'm debating whether to try playing it again, and see if I can do better. Given that it's taken me several months to get here, I probably won't. But we'll see.

Who should be in favor of supporting the poor and middle class?

Joe Stiglitz wrote an excellent article in Vanity Fair last month that discusses things I've mentioned before, about how it is in the top 1%'s best interests to support those below them. It works much better for all involved than cutting them off at the knees like they've been doing for the past couple of decades. But he says it with a lot more authority and eloquence than I've been able to muster on it. It's worth a read.

The one thing he fails to mention (see?) is that he's giving a long-term perspective, while most of the 1% are just focused on the next quarter. And in the very short term, it isn't true. So I think they will mostly find it unconvincing, even though he is completely correct.

Closing thoughts on Tiny Tower

I've basically finished Tiny Towers, as a game. A couple of days ago, I started building the last floor (Tea Room, for what it's worth), and it'll finish building sometime today.

At the time it started building, I had 299 people that were (or would be, once I built their floor) working their dream job, and couldn't find the last person for Graphics Design. It's hard to search for people, playing the way I was (stocking one item per floor at a time, and waiting for the last item to finish selling before actually stocking that item). But I realized that I had no need for more coins; I'd paid for the last floor I'd need.

So I concentrated on looking for that last person. It took over a day, and 50-ish new residents (including three people at Ship & Print), but I finally found him (her? I don't remember).

I had decided that I would stop once I had all the floors completed, and everyone working their dream job. But I still had over a day to get that floor completed, so I decided to finish all the missions and accomplishments. I finished all but one accomplishment yesterday (Tea Room is required for one), and all but three missions (Tea Room is required for two).

I'll finish all of that later today, I expect. Tomorrow, if not.

But I learned a couple of things. One is that my alternative strategy works well. Another is that you can still buy floors, even after starting the building of everything.

So, I expect I'm finished playing in twelve hours or so, but I had a fun time with it.


Kane toads vs Snake

Last week, I also finished the third book in the Chronicles of Kane, The Serpent's Shadow.

I'm actually having more trouble figuring out what I want to say about it than I was with the second one (and I didn't say a whole lot about that).

I guess, let's start with what's happening. The Serpent of Chaos is rising again, more quickly than seemed likely after the second book. The Kanes, and the House of Life in general, are playing a holding game against the Serpent, and against the traitors, and it isn't working out very well for them.

Adding to that, they've got only one lead on how to defeat Apophis, which is a scroll created centuries ago currently residing in a Dallas museum.

I still wasn't too thrilled with the conceit of how the story was told. One thing that really hit me on that was that, if you're reciting into a tape, you will not stop at a cliffhanger (as happened one chapter). Plus, maybe I was just overly sheltered, but I definitely didn't spend any significant amount of time contemplating dating the distaff at that age. So it felt like too much of that to me (especially at Sophie's age; thirteen might have been marrying age a millenium or two ago, but not so much, these days).

One thing I did find interesting was how Ra was used in the book. I was wondering, after the second book, and liked what happened to him.

One thing I didn't really like all the focus on order vs chaos, and trying to destroy chaos. Neither one even has any meaning without the other, so portraying that as a winnable fight (for either side) is fairly ridiculous. There was a small nod towards that at the end, but I found it fairly weak.

Having a pharaoh at the end also seemed kind of silly. There's no state for him to be head of. What's wrong with just having a Lector? Why is there any need to have a pharaoh at all? The only thing I can think of is for dramatic reasons, but dramatic reasons are supposed to improve what's in the story, not create it. Perhaps I didn't phrase that well... I think it's to show the progress of the character, but being titular head of nothing, really, isn't adding anything.

I rather liked the "Uncle Vinnie" character, although he felt a bit too modern. I'm not sure what should have been done, but I think something should have. I suppose, in reflection, the original Lector was the same way and, perhaps, the Gods as well.

Oh yeah. Minor detail I almost forgot about: Hapi pills. Rating: badly forced.

Still, I did enjoy the book, overall. I think the series wasn't nearly as good as the Olympian ones, but it was pretty good. There were intimations that crossovers might be possible at some point in the future. I'm not sure whether I'd look forward to that, but it's certainly got some potential.


Finding time together

Been a bit busy for updating, lately. But last Friday was really good, and I wanted to talk about it a bit.

My wife and I took the day off, as an anniversary celebration. Usually, when we do something like that, we have a plan for what we're going to do (my wife's not big on spontaneity), but not this time. We'd talked about it a little bit, but couldn't come to any conclusion (though we did talk a bit about possibly going to an art museum).

But on Friday, things kind of came together, as I had a thought about going to the Nation Portrait Gallery. She asked where that was, and when I told her it was next to Verizon Center, she immediately said, "Then we can have lunch in Penn Quarter". I didn't really know what was there (it's changed quite a bit since my short stint working at the DoJ a few blocks from there), but said that it sounded fine.

We metroed over to the Archives stop, and started walking up toward Gallery Place. Seeing Oyamel, which my wife had once eaten at, we talked a bit (debating that, Carmine's, and an Indian place a little farther up), and decided to eat there.

Having only once had something resembling upscale Mexican food, I wasn't too sure what to expect. The Tuna Ceviche was an obvious choice for me (I'd had something fitting the same general description once at a place in NW), and my wife wanted the Chayote salad. The bulk of the menu being, in essence, tapas, we also got the Huevos Enfrijolada, Tamal Verde, BBQ pork taco, something with pork belly, and the cow tongue taco.

I didn't try the salad or cow tongue (I hate the whole squash family, and we didn't share the two tacos), but everything else was delicious. Even the chips and salsa were excellent. Oh, and the Oyamel margarita was very good, as well. So we were pretty full by the time we left.
It was a short walk from there to the museum, and we wandered around there for a while. We didn't have a plan, there, and basically followed the ground floor loop around to the far side. I didn't think much of most of the temporary exhibits, and I think my wife (despite being Chinese-American) liked them even less (although she did like the part of it in the main hallway). I liked Roger Shimomura's animation-inspired self-portraits, and Zhang Chun Hong's hair portraits (which are a neat idea); the rest? Not so much.

But after that, we got to the historical part, and that was more interesting. I did expect to have heard of a bit more of the people we saw, but I think it was less than a third, overall. And almost none of the pre-Revolutionary types.

What was even more interesting was the people of whom I'd heard, but had no idea about their appearances. Rockefeller's bust made him look like a ghoul. Poe, of course, looked very young. Henry James, I hadn't realized was even American. I thought he was a Brit. I was especially amused by his portrait, as it said he liked that particular one because it minimized his gut. I thought that was a bit peculiar, as the fixation on skinniness is mostly a much more recent phenomenon. In fact, for much of history, looking hefty was a sign of wealth; it signified that you had enough food and/or that your wife fed you well.

One other bit of trivia: I wasn't aware that Sequoyah was part white; I thought he was all Cherokee.

Anyway, one general reaction. I was irritated at museum policies. For one, why no pictures? I was really only planning to take pictures of the building itself (if it was interesting), but I don't understand why they don't let you take pictures. If you see pictures of a place that look good, does it make you want to go there, or to stay away?

Also, they want you to wear any backpacks on your front (to keep from bumping things). While I understand the idea, it really hurt my back to keep the camera (even though I only brought two lenses and a monopod with it) in front. I was probably getting close to getting kicked out because of it.

So, very few pictures. I took a number of the atrium, especially of its interesting roof. And I took a couple of the entrance, but even my widest lens was too narrow to get a good shot there (there was a bus parked in front to keep me from getting any farther back).

But we then drove out to Leesburg so my wife could get a couple of things at the outlets there. Traffic was a bit weird on the way. As one would expect I-66 was pretty bad (even worse than I would have guessed, given the hour), and the toll road was easy. The Greenway was also easy, but the mile or so on Rt 15 was terrible. And, for once, it wasn't people going into the shopping center.

Regardless, we got our shopping done (though it took much longer than my wife had promised), and headed into the old part of Leesburg. We ate dinner there at a French place we found when we were scouting locations for our wedding. It might not have been quite as good as previous trips, but it was still very nice. We'll go back again, I'm sure.

After a leisurely dinner, we walked around the old part of town for a little bit. I ended up wishing that I had brought my tripod, as there were a couple of pictures I'd've liked to have taken. (Especially annoying, since the reason I didn't take it was that I thought I'd be able to use a monopod, but not a tripod, at the museum.) In any event, after the walk, we headed back to pick up the kids at daycare.

The only negatives on the whole day were the photographic issues, and that lunch and dinner were close enough together that we weren't able to eat as much at dinner. And if that's your biggest negatives on a day, it's hard to complain. So, overall, quite an excellent day.